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gpstressMay 4 2016

New data has identified a decrease in the number of GPs working in general practice, both in terms of head count and full time equivalents.

The number of GPs in a permanent position had decreased by 1% or down 408 to 40,697, by September 2015, compared to 2014. Excluding locums, this represents 34,955 FTE GPs, an estimated decrease of 657 or 1.9% from the 2014 estimated figures, the Health and Social Care Information Centre has announced.

When registrars, retainers and locums are excluded, the comparable figures are 35,586, down 233 or 0.7% since 2014. “This represents 29,271 FTE GPs, an estimated decrease of 980 (3.2%) from the 2014 estimated FTE figures.” The total figure for all GPs working in general practice is a headcount of 41,877 with an FTE of 34,592.

The figures are published in HSCIC’s ‘General and Personal Medical Services, England 2005-2015’ provisional experimental statistics. The document notes that in 2015, 54.4% of headcount GPs were female, with the proportion excluding registrars, retainers and locums increasing from 49.9% to 51.9%.

Other workforce figures for September 2015 indicate that there were:

  • 15,398 FTE nurses, an increase of 336 (2.2%) since 2014
  • 9,149 FTE other direct patient care staff, a decrease of 129 (1.4%) since 2014
  • 63,728 FTE administration/non-clinical staff, a decrease of 328 (0.5%) since 2014.

Commenting on the data, Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee deputy chair, said: “These figures further expose the crisis in general practice with GPs leaving because of unsustainable workload pressures. It demonstrates why it is important that the BMA’s proposals for an Urgent Prescription for General Practice, together with NHS England's recently announced General Practice Forward View must be implemented immediately.

“It is deeply worrying that at a time of escalating patient demand, especially from an ageing population, there has been a decrease in the number of GPs and staff focused on delivering patient care.” He said the public is seeing the impact of this, with many GP practices having difficulties providing enough appointments.

“Ministers cannot wait a moment longer and need to ensure that its recent promises of new funding to GP practices materialise as quickly as possible,” he said.

Professor Nigel Mathers, RCGP Honorary Secretary, added: “With our growing and ageing population, with more and more of our patients living with multiple and long term conditions, any drop in the GP workforce is incredibly serious.

“We have seen some promising signs in the latest recruitment rounds for general practice. Today’s figures show just how essential it is that we build on this, and the commitment to building the general practice workforce outlined in NHS England’s GP Forward View.

“We need to continue to do whatever we can to recruit more GPs, urgently implement plans to retain existing ones, and make it easier for trained family doctors to return to practice in the UK following a career break or period working abroad.”

Links:

HSCIC announcement

HSCIC ‘General and Personal Medical Services, England 2005-2015, as at 30 September, Provisional Experimental statistics’

BMA comment

RCGP comment

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